The OU Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion hosted a virtual conference to report and reflect on the year’s events and accomplishments regarding cultural change.
Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Belinda Higgs Hyppolite began the conference by thanking those who made the office’s successes in 2020 possible and highlighting the different areas affected and improved by these accomplishments.
“Today's event is so important,” President Joseph Harroz said in a video clip during the event. “It gives us a chance to pause and reflect on why it's essential to purposely foster a culture of respect and understanding. We talk a lot about our university's exciting future and our bold ambitious plan to get there. There's so much we have to look forward to, but for us to reach our highest aspirations, we must work to become a place of true belonging for all.”
During his speech, Harroz mentioned OU’s development of a comprehensive university strategic plan over the past year, which focused heavily on campus diversity and the implementation of a new, required freshman course called Gateway to Belonging, which will focus on helping students better understand each other and gain “a sense of belonging.”
Higgs Hyppolite addressed major events, such as COVID-19, the death of George Floyd and the Supreme Court ruling to prohibit sex discrimination in the workplace, which impacted the OU community as well as communities around the nation. She also highlighted partnerships with communities such as Everfi and Nextep, the 11 We Are Webinars focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, and the student, faculty and staff-led seminars and movements that made strides towards cultural change over the past year.
“You ask for change and impact, and we continue to deliver and serve,” Higgs Hyppolite said. “DEI is a partner in helping to push the agenda forward, but we must continue to build consensus and form a coalition. We are trying to model the environment we want to help build and grow on our campus. It will take each of us doing our part to build momentum and to change lives.”
Higgs Hyppolite said 30,000 participants attended numerous DEI facilitated workshops and presentations across all three OU campuses over the past year. The DEI also raised $15,000 to support internal and external initiatives for the OU community and received awards such as the National Bronze Award from the Alaska Association and the 2020 Mosaic Top Inclusive Workplace Award for OU Tulsa Kings.
“We must commit to continue to build an inclusive community,” Higgs Hyppolite said. “We commit to serving our constituents and building internal partnerships that will help create and cultivate the environment that promotes a sense of belonging and emotional growth for all.”